At its December 10, 2015 meeting, the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) voted 3-1 to advance the Tricolored Blackbird to candidacy under the California Endangered Species Act, triggering a 12-month period during which the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will conduct a status review to inform the Commission’s subsequent decision on whether to list the species as threatened or endangered. As a candidate species, the Tricolored Blackbird receives the same legal protection afforded to an endangered or threatened species (Fish & Game Code, § 2085).
Today, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced a 90 day finding of a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity to place the Tricolored Blackbird on the Endangered Species List.
The finding states: "Based on our review of the petition and sources cited in the petition, we find that the petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted for the tricolored blackbird (Agelaius tricolor) based on Factors A, C, D, and E. However, during our status review, we will thoroughly evaluate all potential threats to the species. Thus, for the tricolored blackbird, the Service requests information on the five listing factors under section 4(a)(1) of the Act, including the factors identified in this finding (see Request for Information for Status Reviews, above)."
The public may submit comments to the Service by midnight November 17, 2015 regarding the status of the tricolored blackbird by one of two methods:
Today the California Fish and Game Commission voted 2-1 to allow the emergency protection of the tricolored blackbird to expire by not recommending a full review by the Department of Fish and Wildlife of the status of the species.
Today the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the Secretary of the Interior to list the tricolored blackbird as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The Center cited the recent steep population decline as documented in the most recent statewide surveys conducted in 2008, 2011, and 2014 as evidence for the need for federal protection.
This morning, the California Fish and Game Commission voted 3-2 to grant emergency protections to the Tricolored Blackbird. The Commission's action grants a 180-day period for the Department of Fish and Wildlife to determine whether to make the protections permanent.
The Commission was responding to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity in October, 2014.
The Center for Biological Diversity on Wednesday, October 8, 2014 filed an emergency petition to protect the tricolored blackbird as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. The Center cited the numerous threats faced by tricolored blackbirds and the dramatic decline documented most recently in this year's Statewide Survey. The Center's petition listed losses of native habitats, including wetlands, grasslands and shrublands, to agriculture, urbanization, market hunting and shooting in autumn when tricolors forage in mixed flocks on ripening rice with red-winged blackbirds, pesticide use, and harvest of grain fields while eggs and young are in the nests as among the factors resulting in the decline. The losses of native habitats and widespread pesticide use are the most likely causes of the chronic low productivity of the species, and the continuing severe drought is likely further stressing the species.
The 2014 Statewide Survey Final Report was released on July 31, 2014.
This report contains the results of the 2014 Statewide Survey, comparisons to past statewide surveys, and conservation recommendations.
The 2014 Statewide Survey was held from April 18-20, 2014. It appears to have been the most comprehensive Statewide Survey ever, with 143 participants surveying for tricolors at 802 locations in 41 counties.
The California population estimate derived from the Survey was 145,000 birds. This is a 44% reduction from the 258,000 birds seen during the 2011 Survey and a 63% reduction from the 395,000 birds seen during the 2008 Survey. Thus, the number of tricolors in California continues a rapid decline.
The number of birds declined most markedly in the San Joaquin Valley, where there were 78% fewer birds seen in 2014 than in 2008 (73,482 vs. 340,703), and along the Central Coast, where there were 91% fewer birds seen in 2014 than in 2008 (627 vs. 7014). The number of birds in the Sierra Nevada foothills was up 145% compared to 2008 (54,151 vs. 22,586), and the number of birds seen in southern California was up 126% compared to 2008 (12,386 vs. 5,487).
The recent sharp decline in the number of tricolors was highlighted on national television on Saturday, June 28th, 2014 on CBS Evening News. The story, by CBS News reporter Bigad Shaban, was recorded on Thursday, June 26th at the Conaway Ranch in Yolo County. The piece features research by U.C. Davis avian ecologist Dr. Bob Meese and cites the link between widespread and chronic reproductive failures to insufficient insects in the diets of breeding birds.